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Harvard Ups The Ante On West Station Contribution

Boston Land
The shuttered Beacon Park Rail Yard is poised to eventually house West Station and 50 acres of developable land for Harvard once the Massachusetts Turnpike is realigned.

MBTA riders may not have to wait until 2040 to hop aboard a commuter rail train in Allston, after all. 

Harvard has revised its financial commitment offer to $58M toward West Station, the transit component of the upcoming realignment of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Allston. The university initially committed to paying a third of the station’s cost when it was estimated to be $25M. It remained attached to the project when prices surged to over $90M, the Boston Globe reports

The university has offered $50M for the project and would also contribute as much as $8M for an “early action” station at the site, Harvard University Executive Vice President Katherine Lapp wrote to Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack in a letter provided to Bisnow. The interim station could open by the mid-2020s. 

Transit advocates criticized the Massachusetts Department of Transportation after it announced in December unknown ridership at the yet-developed site could delay the station until 2040.

The timeline had concerned Allston neighbors as well as the university, which is underway with an Allston master plan that includes developing more than 130 acres in the neighborhood. The highway straightening is expected to open the area for redevelopment, and it was even included in the city’s pitch to Amazon as a possible location for HQ2. 

“These additional contributions will support both an early neighborhood transit service (that may serve as a bridge to full service) and the introduction of the regional, multi-modal West Station,” Lapp wrote. 

Lapp also reminded Pollack of the sizable investment, over $400M, Harvard made over 15 years in procuring the Allston rail yards and clearing the property to make it much more conducive for MassDOT to proceed with the Mass. Pike project. 

Uncertainties remain. Boston University, which had also agreed to pay a third of the station’s cost when it was still at the $25M estimate, has not clarified its role in the costlier version. While MassDOT appeared grateful for the bump in the offer from Harvard, agency spokesperson Jacquelyn Goddard said it still needs to assess what future development will do for ridership. 

“As Harvard recognizes, the decision as to when service should be introduced at an interim or full multi-modal West Station, and at what levels, are determinations that would need to be made by MassDOT after an assessment of projected regional development, ridership demand and impacts to existing service,” she said in a statement to the Globe.